Tighten worksite safety
THE construction of two blocks of high-rise condominiums in Jalan Tun Razak in the city has always been a source of fear for some 400 people working at the nearby Wisma Bernama.
The headquarters of the national news agency Bernama is so near the construction site that each time mishaps occurred at such a site elsewhere, the chilling message was driven home even closer.
The latest tragedy at a construction site happened in August when a woman was killed after a crane hook fell and crashed onto her car in Jalan Raja Chulan.
Their worst fears were confirmed on Monday when a heavy metal scaffold fell off and landed on the back portion of a brand-new Honda CRV as it was being driven out of Wisma Bernama’s car park.
“Had it been one or two seconds earlier, the metal piece would have crashed onto the dashboard portion and I would be gone,” said Khairul Annuar, the senior Bernama executive who miraculously escaped unhurt.
As Bernama chairman for the last six months, I have frequently advised the developer of the project – the two blocks will have a total of 93 floors – to be more mindful about safety at the workplace than anything else.
The point that I have been trying to impress on him to be passed on to his contractors is about the welfare of construction workers who are mostly from Indonesia and Bangladesh.
At the end of the day, the safety at the work sites has much to do with how companies which are reportedly making huge gains from the construction industry treat these manual workers.
Their living condition, for instance, is one area that shouldn’t be taken lightly and seldom do we hear or read about luxury property developers sparing a thought for them when they pride themselves telling the media about the billions’ worth of the gross development value of their projects.
According to the director-general of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), Datuk Ir Mohtar Musri, there are 16,000 construction sites in the country right now, the majority in the Klang Valley.
The Klang Valley is indeed the industry’s gold mine and it’s all too obvious from the sheer sight of the cranes dotting the skies.
The construction industry employs some 1.4 million people mostly foreign workers out of the estimated 14 million workforce in the country.
Mohtar told me that DOSH enforces stringent safety laws on construction sites given the frequent mishaps.
But to my mind, it would be next to impossible for DOSH officials to visit most or all of such sites.
If developers and their contractors leave even a little space for negligence, the rather scary statistics of workers losing their lives would continue unabated.
I’m referring to some 140 workers killed at construction sites in the country last year, a sharp increase from 80 in the previous year.
According to Mohtar, two sets of laws on occupational safety and health are applicable with maximum fines ranging from RM50,000 to RM100,000 imposed on offenders with a two-year jail term to boot.
Perhaps it’s time to revisit these laws with a view to enhancing the penalties because the amounts can be described as peanuts to the hundreds of million such projects normally accrue.
Although jail terms are provided, so far none has been imposed on such offenders.
In terms of construction sites and the ever menacing sky cranes, we certainly have the most in the world right now by my reckoning.
With the safety record at such sites still leaving much to be desired, much more soul-searching needs to be seen to be done by all parties concerned to save lives and limbs.
In all cases, one life lost is one too many.